In the middle of a compelling nationwide presidential election and the dreaded senior high school exams, some Egyptians somehow manage to keep an eye on Euro 2012. Ahmed Morsy reports
Euro 2012 is attracting viewers by the millions throughout the world. In Egypt, though nothing is apparently more important these days than the presidential elections slated for 16-17 June. Still, at clubs and in cafés, dozens of football fans do gather before large screens watching the Euro games. Al-Ahram Weekly asked some what was behind their Euro passion.
"When one finds national teams like Spain, Portugal, England, France, The Netherlands and Italy playing against each other, it's an irresistible tournament," said Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, 29, while watching Spain playing against Italy on Sunday. The game ended 1-1. "In my opinion, it's one of the most remarkable championships," Abdel-Maksoud added.
Ahmed Ezzat, 27, was sitting behind Abdel-Maksoud in the same café. Ezzat expressed his passion for European football: "Everything is different in the Euro than in our local football games which are not even being played. Frankly, Egyptian football fans watch foreign football not because of the cancellation of the national league but because it cannot be compared to the domestic scene.
"Not only is the performance superior but the quality and techniques of the video cameras bring us the game as if you are there; the colours are vivid as well. Moreover, every single scoring opportunity is replayed from different angles, giving the audience more details as if we are in the heart of the event," Ezzat said.
"The foreign girls cheering in the stands can also be a magnet for watching," Ezzat added.
Following the Port Said stadium disaster which left 74 football fans dead and hundreds injured in February, the Egyptian domestic league was cancelled. However, the Egyptian national team is playing in the qualifications for the 2014 World Cup.
The Spain and Italy game was played one hour before Egypt's game against Guinea in the 2014 World Cup qualifications on Sunday. Nevertheless, the café's customers refused to change the channel to Egypt's game till the Euro game's final whistle.
"The majority of the customers wanted to watch the Euro game, then Guinea," Nabil Mostafa, the manager of the café, explained.
While watching Guinea, Ezzat told the Weekly, "I feel like watching a football game from the 1980s. The quality of the transmission is pale and the picture is colourless, while the performance is below bar," he said.
Only Al-Jazeera's subscription members are able to watch the Euro tournament on encrypted channels.
Given that not everyone can afford the high cost of subscriptions some have resorted to other alternatives, including the illegal connection or shared-cable access, known as the wasla which costs from LE25 to LE35 monthly depending on the district.
"I watch the Euro games at home since I cannot stand the smoke of shishas in cafés," Essam Mohamed, a 39-year-old teacher, told the Weekly.
"Despite the fact that the presidential elections and the unstable political conditions are the main concern for the masses these days, the Euro games can be a great stress buster," Mohamed, who is a wasla subscriber, said.
On the other hand, the thanaweya amma, or senior high school certificate exams, started this week, with 700,000 students and their parents worried about the future. The exam's scores define which university and which college students will go to.
Mustafa Mahmoud, a thanaweya amma student, tells the Weekly that his parents don't allow him to watch the games because of his exams.
"I cannot watch the Euro games in a café or even on television since there is no time to go to a café and my parents don't let me watch them at home. So I secretly watch them online," Mahmoud said.
"There are many websites that one can freely watch a live broadcast for games online. It is considered illegal but it's the only way for me since my parents are unfamiliar with technology."